At first gardening seemed totally Earth Mama and I was so proud of my beautiful vegetables. I loved digging into the earth with my daughter and roasting carrots and beets for her to eat, “Mom, everything at your house is delicious.” There is nothing quite like smelling earth in your kitchen and feeding your child the food you grew yourself.
Then I found an inchworm.
It was the same color of the bunching onions I was chopping and I would have cut right into it had it not suddenly.. inched, Um, these onions are moving. I brushed it off, deciding not to think about it as I smashed it into a paper towel and threw it into the trashcan.
Then my tomatoes suddenly had holes.
I stared at the two little bastards while they noshed. I took a deep breath, you got this. You are much bigger than they are and you have weapons. I used a gardening tool to scoot them into a plastic baggy that I then stepped on. I could feel their fat little bodies under my flip flops.
I’ve learned that when I’m facing something I don’t like (read: scorpions, rats, worms, unsavory creatures) I typically get very quiet and still. If you listen you will likely hear my subconscious working. I actually miss being married for a flash of a second, I have got to start a Hire A Husband service. Who wouldn’t want a dial a hunk who wants nothing more than to kill things and hang things and who will replace the light above my kitchen island, but right. I’m a strong woman. This comes out more like a statement I’m trying to convince myself of as I wince.
Text to gardner: I have hornworms. What can we do?
Text back: Your garden is organic. Pick them off with your fingers every day.
I held my phone in my hand while I closed my eyes, again getting quiet and wondering what it is that made me think I could have a garden without guests. I flashed back to the day the gardening company came out after I noticed the first signs of visitors. The woman that consulted showed me a grub she found. She then popped it between her fingers and it sprayed on my shirt. I jumped and I’m sure she called me a pretty little thing in her head while I thought other things, namely, oh my God I shook her hand when she got here.
Two days later my tomatoes had bites. Not like nibbles, but like a toddler lying on their back and snacking on my garden. My dogs were also extremely interested in my garden boxes. I very bravely decided to investigate and found a rat stuck between the garden box and the wall.
I once again reminded myself that I’ve got this, this is your home. These are your garden boxes. I did, however, go down the list of the men in my life and wondered how they’d accept a call on Father’s Day, “Soooo.. Doing anything?” I saw all of their faces in my head and the disapproving looks from their wives and girlfriends and decided to be passive aggressive about it: Facebook. I posted an adorable little rendition of what was happening in my household with the sweeping request that if any strong men would like to come over and get my rat I’d compliment their muscles from inside the house.
They all “liked” my post and had funny quips, but there I stood at Lowe’s on a Sunday night talking to the dude that covers the area near insecticides. He recommended I put rat poison down.
“I don’t know. Rat poison in my organic garden seems counterintuitive.”
“Right. Organic. Then you’re going to want the sticky traps so you can catch and release them.”
“First, who said them and I’m not like… a hippy or anything. I want it dead. Like dead dead. Not like relocation services.”
He handed me a stack of rat traps. I checked Facebook on my phone while I paid for them, shaking my head. Still no takers.
I did have one post from a friend:
“Get a trap. Buy some gloves. Bag the dead rat and own it. You can do this. You are a tough chick. It doesn’t mean you won’t squeal as you get near it, but Jeanette you go show that rat who’s boss.”
In that moment I decided this was all my father’s fault. You see, I grew up in Florida. We had worms and we had rats. This may be why I live in Las Vegas. When I was a child my father loved earthworms in a weirdly religious way. If there’s something wrong with your yard you get earthworms. If your mulch isn’t mulching you get earthworms. If you want to catch the biggest fish? That’s right. Earthworms. I don’t know how many times he’d come home with a styrofoam cup full of worms that I’d mistaken for boiled peanuts.
Yes, in Florida you can get bait and boiled peanuts from the same roadside vendors and they use the same containers for both. It totally screws up small children.
My father’s pride was the grass in our front yard and he swore up and down it was his beloved earthworms that kept it lush and green. Well, yours truly was in charge of cleaning the mud off the porch when it rained. In Florida. When the yards get flooded the earthworms seek out higher ground. So at least 2-3 times a week I was cleaning mounds of mud and earthworms off our porch while I sucked in my breath and got very quiet.
I couldn’t eat spaghetti.
Gummy worms? Forget you.
I had the top bunk in the room I shared with my sister. A family of rats built their home directly above my head. I heard the comings and going of our own little Ratatouille family and their glorious squeaking offspring. My dad tried traps, we borrowed our neighbor’s mouser, Charlie, and one night in true Florida fashion my father told us to stay away from the windows. I kept hearing shots going off and finally snuck to peek out the front window. My father was sitting in his work clothes in a lawn chair in our front yard. He had a dark beer and a BB gun. My father, friends, was shooting rats off our roof.
Who the hell knew that when I decided to garden I was going to have to face all of the atrocities I left Florida to avoid?
One of my co-workers offered to come over the night after I made an open call on Facebook. When I opened the door he had a mallet, a hammer, a dowel and an electric fly swatter called “The Executioner.”
“What is that?”
“You don’t want to know. I need a bucket and keep Liv away from the windows.”
Oh my God, here we go again.
He asked if I needed it to be humane and I laughed, “No, I need it to be dead.”
Steve spent at least 45 minutes chasing the rat that was not, in fact, stuck. Apparently when he heard me come outside he’d hide between the box and the wall. I can’t believe his fat little belly didn’t get him wedged in there, but no, he was fast. Steve put out more traps and said he knew he hurt him twice, but couldn’t catch him.
“How do you know?”
Steve made a squeaking noise.
I shook my head.
The next day I found the traps to be empty of both rat and the peanut butter I’d put in them, now he’s taunting me.
My landscaper and his BB gun got involved. I now have an industrial sized rat trap made of PVC pipe with peanut butter over the end that lands the offender in a watery grave.
Two men, firearms, electrocution and I’ve got a fat little rat throwing up deuces in my backyard. I have half a mind to call my dad and tell him to end this mess.
The other half of me realizes the moment he sees my garden boxes I’ll have a yard full of styrofoam cups and there will be another post about how I’ve had to leave Vegas because of the earthworms.
Wish me luck.